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Student exchange program

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Pakistan to US Student Exchange Program, July 2011

A student exchange program is a program in which students from a secondary school (high school) or higher education study abroad at one of their institution's partner institutions.[1] A student exchange program may involve international travel, but does not necessarily require the student to study outside their home country.

Foreign exchange programs provide students with an opportunity to study in another country and experience a different environment.[2] These programs provide opportunities that may not be available in the participant's home country, such as learning about the history and culture of other countries and meeting new friends to enrich their personal development. International exchange programs are also effective to challenge students to develop a global perspective.

The term "exchange" means that a partner institution accepts a student, but does not necessarily mean that the students have to find a counterpart from the other institution with whom to exchange. Exchange students live with a host family or in a designated place such as a hostel, an apartment, or a student lodging. Costs for the program vary by the country and institution. Participants fund their participation via scholarships, loans, or self-funding.

Student exchanges became popular after World War II, intended to increase the participants' understanding and tolerance of other cultures, as well as improving their language skills and broadening their social horizons. Student exchanges also increased further after the end of the Cold War. An exchange student typically stays in the host country for a period of 6 to 12 months; however, exchange students may opt to stay for one semester at a time. International students or those on study abroad programs may stay in the host country for several years. Some exchange programs also offer academic credit.[3]

Students of study abroad programs aim to develop a global perspective and cultural understanding by challenging their comfort zones and immersing themselves in a different culture. Studies have shown that students' desire to study abroad has increased, and research suggests that students choose programs because of location, costs, available resources and heritage.[4] Although there are many different exchange programs, most popular are the programs that offer academic credit, as many students are concerned about traveling hindering their academic and professional plans.[5]

Types of exchange programs[edit]

Short-term exchange[edit]

A short-term exchange program is also known as STEP. These focus on home-stays, language skills, community service, or cultural activities. High school and university students can apply for the programs through various government or non-governmental organizations that organize the programs. A short-term exchange lasts from one week to three months and doesn't require the student to study in any particular school or institution. The students are exposed to an intensive program that increases their understanding of other cultures, communities, and languages.[6][7]

Long-term exchange[edit]

Enthusiastic welcome offered to the first Indian student to arrive in Dresden, East Germany (1951)

A long-term exchange is one which lasts six to ten months or up to one full year. Participants attend high school or university in their host countries, through a student visa. Typically, guest students coming to the United States are issued a J-1 cultural exchange visa or an F-1 foreign student visa. Students are expected to integrate themselves into the host family, immersing themselves in the local community and surroundings. Upon their return to their home country they are expected to incorporate this knowledge into their daily lives, as well as give a presentation on their experience to their sponsors. Many exchange programs expect students to be able converse in the language of the host country, at least on a basic level. Some programs require students to pass a standardized test for English language comprehension prior to being accepted into a program taking them to the United States. Other programs do not examine language ability. Most exchange students become fluent in the language of the host country within a few months. Some exchange programs, such as the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, KL-YES, FLEX are government-funded programs.

The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel is a not-for-profit organization committed to quality international educational travel and exchange for youth at the high school level.[8]

Application process[edit]

Long-term (10 to 12-month) exchange applications and interviews generally take place between a few days to few months depending on program type, host university requirements and destination country in advance of departure, Students generally must be between the ages of 13 and 18. Some programs allow students older than 18 years of age in a specialized work-study program.

Some programs require a preliminary application form with fees, and then schedule interviews and a longer application form. Other programs request a full application from the beginning and then schedule interviews. High school scholarship programs often require a set GPA of around 2.5 or higher. Programs select the candidates most likely to complete the program and serve as the best ambassadors to the foreign nation. Students in some programs, such as Rotary, are expected to go to any location where the organization places them, and students are encouraged not to have strict expectations of their host country. Students are allowed to choose a country, but may live at any spot within that country.

The home country organization will contact a partner organization in the country of the student's choice. Students accepted for the program may or may not be screened by the organization in their home country. Partner organizations in the destination country each have differing levels of screening they require students to pass through before being accepted into their program. For example, students coming to America may be allowed to come on the recommendation of the organization in their home country, or the hosting partner may require the student to submit a detailed application, including previous school report cards, letters from teachers and administrators, and standardized English fluency exam papers. The US agency may then accept or decline the applicant. Some organizations also have Rules of Participation. For example, almost all US organizations cannot allow an exchange student to drive an automobile during their visit. Some organizations require a written contract that sets standards for personal behavior and grades, while others may be less rigorous. Lower cost programs can result in a student participating without a supervisor being available nearby to check on the student's well-being. Programs provided by agencies that provide compensation for representatives are more likely to retain local representatives to assist and guide the student and keep track of their well-being.


The costs of student exchange are determined by the charges from a student exchange program organisation or the university or college.[9] The costs vary depending on the country, length of study and other personal factors. Different programs through the school/university of choice may offer students scholarships that cover the expenses of travel and accommodation and the personal needs of a student.[10]

Prevalence worldwide[edit]

Students study abroad from many countries around the globe. As of 2017, the top 8 countries sending students abroad for tertiary education are as follows:[11]

Rank Country Students Studying Abroad
1 China 928,090
2 India 332,033
3 Germany 122,195
4 South Korea 105,399
5 Vietnam 94,662
6 France 89,379
7 US 86,566
8 Nigeria 85,251

Australian context[edit]

Australian high school exchange programs[edit]

Each state in Australia provides a different program of student exchange for secondary students. The programs from each state are different for whether a student in Australia is looking to study internationally or a student from another country is looking to study in Australia. Student exchange in Australia, depending on the state, might be managed by registered exchange organizations or the school chosen for study must be registered.[9] The countries that are most popular for Australian students to choose to study are, Japan, France, Germany, USA, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Spain and Argentina. The main purpose of student exchange in Australia is to allow students to study, engage and experience a new culture. International students who choose to study in Australia are given different opportunities through the programs at set schools will learn about Australian culture, but also gain English language skills at a high school level.[citation needed]

Australian university students exchange programs[edit]

Exchange programs for university students to study abroad vary depending on the university campus offers. International student exchange programs for university students are aimed to enhance students' intercultural skills and knowledge. Student exchange programs for university students allow broadening their knowledge on their study of choice from a different country. This gives university students a chance to develop their work experience by seeing how their studying profession is practiced in another country. International exchange for tertiary students allows them to gain cultural experience in their studies and a chance to travel abroad while completing their degree.[12]

Foreign students in Spain[edit]

A series of studies conducted within the last decade found similar results in students studying abroad in Spain for a short-term and/or semester long program. These studies found that students can improve their speaking proficiency during one semester, there is a positive relationship between students' integrative motivation and interaction with second language culture, and student contact with the Spanish language has a great effect on their speaking improvement.[13] It is especially apparent in students who live with host families during their program. Anne Reynolds-Case found improvements in understanding and usage of the vosotros form after studying in Spain.[14] One study specifically studies culture perceptions of students studying abroad in Spain. Alan Meredith defines culture as consisting "of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts." Questionnaires were given to students living with host families during a two-month program in Spain. He studies how these groups perceive customs, such as concern for personal appearance, physical contact, cooking styles, politics, etc. The study found a variety of results depending the cultural custom. However, the US students' perceptions most closely aligned with the Young Spaniards (16–22 years old).[15] At the same time, Angela George's study found little significance in the adoption of regional features during their semester abroad.[16] Though most of these studies focused on students who came from America to study in Spain, the United States is not the only one sending their students. Brian Denman's article demonstrates an increase of Saudi student mobility for education, including locations such as Spain.[17]


Even though exchange students learn to improve themselves through the experience of studying and staying in another country, there are also many difficulties to be encountered. One of them is when exchange students are unable to adapt to pedagogy followed by the host country. Another is conflicts between the host family (who have provided accommodation) and the students, when it cannot be solved by communicating with each other and the student usually will be asked to stay with another host until they find a new match.[citation needed] This process, however, could take time while the students' duration of stay is limited. Even with preparation and knowledge about the new environment, they could still experience culture shock, which can affect them in different ways. Students from a completely different culture[18] can also encounter homesickness for a longer period of time. Transportation can also be a problem, as it is often difficult or impractical for a student to buy a car during a short program. Moreover, students will find it hard to find a job, even part-time since most exchange visas do not allow students to work and it is difficult to obtain one that does. Another potential drawback is health issues that can occur during the stay in a foreign country. Students are advised to always have health insurance while traveling abroad, and carry emergency contact details of their local hosts and of multiple family members as well.[19] Students participating in student exchange programs have sometimes been vulnerable to threats such as terrorism and other crimes. For example, in 1998 a number of US students traveling in Guatemala on a college sponsored trip were attacked in the Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa area, with the entire group being robbed and physically harassed and threatened, and five of the young women being raped.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Stella Ting-Toomey, PhD" (PDF). October 2006. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  2. ^ Daly, Amanda (1 April 2011). "Determinants of participating in Australian university student exchange programs". Journal of Research in International Education. 10 (1): 58–70. doi:10.1177/1475240910394979. hdl:10072/63753. ISSN 1475-2409. S2CID 144999878.
  3. ^ "Foster School Exchange Programs". University of Washington. October 2019. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  4. ^ Naddaf, Mariana; Marie, Jakia; Mitchell, Donald (1 January 2020). "Heritage Seekers, Identity, and Study Abroad: A Phenomenological Exploration". Journal of College Student Development. 61 (2): 251–256. doi:10.1353/csd.2020.0026. S2CID 216334322.
  5. ^ Angulo, Sarah Kathryn (2008). "Identity change in students who study abroad". The University of Texas at Austin ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. ProQuest 194154897 – via ProQuest.
  6. ^ "What are Short-Term Programs?". EducationUSA. 27 January 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  7. ^ "Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs - Office of Non-Public Education". www2.ed.gov. 6 September 2019. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  8. ^ "CSIET". csiet.org.
  9. ^ a b "Secondary student exchange - DE International". www.decinternational.nsw.edu.au. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  10. ^ "Discounts and Scholarships | Student Exchange Programs | Over 25 Countries. Live overseas for one to twelve months. Stay with a host family, attend school, live like a local, learn the language! Experience is everything. " Student Exchange Australia New Zealand". studentexchange.org.au. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  11. ^ Niall, McCarthy (12 May 2020). "Infographic: The Countries With The Most Students Studying Abroad". Statista Infographics. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
  12. ^ Lynas, Kathie (2009). "Student exchange program broadens world of participants". Canadian Pharmacists Journal. 142 (1): 14. doi:10.3821/1913-701x-142.1.14. S2CID 72483524.
  13. ^ Hernández, Todd A. (1 December 2010). "The Relationship Among Motivation, Interaction, and the Development of Second Language Oral Proficiency in a Study-Abroad Context". The Modern Language Journal. 94 (4): 600–617. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.2010.01053.x. ISSN 1540-4781.
  14. ^ Reynolds-Case, Anne (1 June 2013). "The Value of Short-Term Study Abroad: An Increase in Students' Cultural and Pragmatic Competency". Foreign Language Annals. 46 (2): 311–322. doi:10.1111/flan.12034. ISSN 1944-9720.
  15. ^ Meredith, R. Alan (2010). "Acquiring Cultural Perceptions during Study Abroad: The Influence of Youthful Associates". Hispania. 93 (4): 686–702. JSTOR 25758244.
  16. ^ George, Angela (1 March 2014). "Study Abroad in Central Spain: The Development of Regional Phonological Features". Foreign Language Annals. 47 (1): 97–114. doi:10.1111/flan.12065. ISSN 1944-9720.
  17. ^ Denman, Brian D.; Hilal, Kholoud T. (1 August 2011). "From barriers to bridges: An investigation on Saudi student mobility (2006–2009)". International Review of Education. 57 (3–4): 299–318. Bibcode:2011IREdu..57..299D. doi:10.1007/s11159-011-9221-0. ISSN 0020-8566. S2CID 143960533.
  18. ^ "Resources and Information". www.foreignexchangestudentprograms.net.
  19. ^ "Student Exchange Program". 16 July 2016. Archived from the original on 28 March 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  20. ^ Gowen, Annie (27 January 2003). "Terrorism a new test for US students abroad". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2 November 2020.

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